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Pravasi Bharatiya Divas... yawn!

Surfers slam politicians for 'eyeing' NRI money and caring for little else.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2006 19:14 IST

You and I would believe the surfers would be euphoric at the announcement of the Overseas Indian Citizenship (OCI), right? Wrong.

They are in no mood to get fooled. Over the past four years, they have seen the Divas being reduced to a farce and they don't shy away from saying so.

They clearly see that nothing decisive is set to emerge from such events.

It is, for all practical purposes, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. A jamboree where rich overseas Indians get pampered at the expense of poor Indians tax payers, where the only visible intention of the powers that be (ruling class) is to fleece (gently, that is) them of their money.

Sure, not all are that pessimistic but even the optimistic few chose to take a guarded 'wait and watch' approach.

But first, the brickbats.

Dr Subramaniam from Sydney was at his caustic best when he described the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) 2006 as nothing but "Purely Bombastic Divas, a Purely Business Divas and a Purely Partying Divas".

"PBD so far has been about rich Indians having a pathetic, bombastic bash in India at the expense of poor Indian tax-payers in the name of Bharatiya Divas."

He felt that if the Indian Government were really serious about changing the face of India, they would also concentrate on the not-so-rich NRIs as well—educationists, scientists, researchers, etc.

"How many scientists, students or research personnel who constitute the cream of leading laboratories in medicine, neuroscience, engineering and technology, who are in the forefront of discovery and application in the West are even thought about? They are never thought about because they are not the cash cows that Indian politicians are after."

He felt bringing scientific talent and education alone could improve India; not the rich NRIs alone who wish to start businesses and resorts in India and make more money, of course also generating labour or employment in the process.

"A country that is deeply divided in the name of reservation requires men and women of scientific, spiritual and social merit to be lured back to India. Providing such wonderful and talented (but relatively poor) NRIs with a platform back in India would greatly assist in uplifting India's social, economic, scientific and educational fabric."

Singapore's Venkat seem to endorse that view. He said, "PBD is just a time-pass activity. NRIs are getting their fingers burnt by going to India for business. India is a place where you can neither float nor drown yourself. Need to be always struggling and feeding the politicians."

Anna Naidu from Hong Kong was in agreement with this line of thought.

"PBD is just a rich man's club pampered by the ruling party with an eye on retaining power. Will they honour slave Indian workers in Middle East who remit large amounts of foreign exchange to India? It is a mutual admiration society of rich Indians."

Well said, Anna.

Deepak from Sydney tickled our funny bone being his sarcastic best.

"PBD is nothing but a food festival for some desperate NRIs. Has it done any good for the poor people of India? Another self-promoting effort. A waste of time."

For many NRIs, the issue of citizenship was hardly an emotional one. The confusion of dual citizenship and what it bodes.

BK Dhar from The Netherlands put it rather clearly.

"I still don't see anything solid that has come out of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. We still are being called NRIs and not Indians. Having a Dutch citizenship I still don't know if I can have an Indian passport. Then, the Dutch Govt does not support double nationality."

Vijay from Singapore asked, "Of what use is voting rights when majority of us wouldn't be present to vote? Unless the Govt makes this available online, it is absolutely useless talking of such things."

Many well-meaning NRIs seem so cagey about Indian administration and corruption that their best of intentions takes a solid beating. It was best exhibited in a letter from by Dr Vijay Majumdar of Fairfax, USA.

"The state of affairs there seems to be chronic. I am an NRI myself and have provided reasonable funds in the past for activities that seemed fair and genuine. However at times I wonder whether the money has been put to fair use. Can someone suggest the best way to provide funds, technical expertise etc to India without running the risk of corruption and misuse?"

Dr Suneel Pooboni, Leicester, UK though sounded very positive about the prospect of getting citizenship in India.

He was of the opinion that when anybody accepted the citizenship of a country, they were taking part in the integrated development process, not for mere financial gains.

Dr Menon Mohan Kumar from Bahrain felt PBD was achieving some results and motivation among NRIs.

"The speech by Manmohan Singh was really encouraging and addressed the prime issues faced by the NRIs. However, it seemed that proper action plan and follow up is missing in the whole efforts," he added.

Some chose to comment on other issues faced by NRIs. Chandrakant Pancholi from New York felt Government of India ought to address the issues of Gulf NRIs.

"If Gulf NRIs can never become citizens of Gulf States, then PM Manmohan Singh, rather than showing cowardice, should straighten his spine and take up the matter with concerned Arab states. He should question and expose them publicly for their hypocrisy until they correct the situation."

Many native Indians were irritated at the pampering of NRIs by Indian Government.

New Delhi's Himanshu was rather angry with them. He fumed, "I'm particularly disappointed about little interest shown by the educated NRIs in helping India develop world-class universities, hospitals, medical schools, research centres, etc. These people who migrated in search of greener pastures are a rootless lot seeking a foothold on their old motherland so that they can have best of both sides."

"They expect to be treated like grooms here at public expense. PBD is a big sarkari tamasha."

Hari Sharma of Sweden summed up the confusion rather well.

"Nothing concrete so far in PBD 2006! However, if programmed well, something can be achieved. I don't know what benefit Government of India will have, but some benefit to NRIs are still there. Overall most of them went abroad largely because India could not accommodate them at that time. This attitude has still not changed unfortunately in the country.

"Indians in India are discriminated against their origin, region, school of education, etc and this still continues. How can one imagine that it will all vanish in few years? It will take long time to gain something concrete both for Govt of India and for NRIs," Hari said.

To conclude one could safely say that there is still lot of enthusiasm among the NRIs and Indians alike, but inefficiency and corruption could well mean that this dream too could turn sour.

First Published: Jan 10, 2006 00:00 IST